Over a span of six months last year, I faced several tough experiences at once. One of my long-time best friends and neighbors moved out of state, my “go-to” friend was diagnosed with cancer and died nine months later, and my long-term mentoring ministry—a source of passion and purpose—ended. Then, my home was broken into at night and the intruder entered my bedroom and woke me up with a flashlight in my face and demanded money. Thankfully, I was miraculously and completely physically spared and safe by the grace of God.
To say that I was ready for a new start—a new year—was an understatement. It wasn’t until a couple months into the year that I realized I had slowly slipped into a darker place. I was scarred, struggling, and stuck. Each of these life changes and experiences inflicted a deep sense of pain and trauma, and one event after another gave me no space to deal with them emotionally or spiritually.
I’m a single man in my upper 30s. I admit that I am fiercely independent. But I couldn’t “fix” this on my own. I needed help. Through prayer and some pastoral counseling, I tried to peel away my “I can do this” attitude and seek the comfort of God and others. I joined a small group, got the help of an experienced life coach, and tried to surround myself with Christian community (and installed a home alarm system).
A year later, a gift has come out of my trauma and pain. I have a new sensitivity and empathy toward others who’ve gone through tough, even traumatic experiences.
A Posture toward Healing
For someone experiencing pain and trauma, I first offer four antidotes that helped me and can help you move toward healing.
Seek professional help.
Hard experiences in life affect us all in different ways. Your traumatic experience may require that you talk to your pastor, small group, or friends—and I completely recommend this. But, if it’s affecting your life emotionally (e.g., anxiety, sadness, denial, fear) or physically (e.g., panic attacks, inability to concentrate, lack of sleep), you need to get a professional assessment from a trained counselor who can care for you. In my case, what I needed above and beyond my community was a life coach to help me look inward and make appropriate decisions outwardly.
Your experience matters.
When I looked at the struggles of others in my church and community, people who were experiencing true trauma—death of beloved family members, marital and financial crisis, mental illness, painful adoption cases stuck for months in courts—my problems seemed so small. But, someone from my small group reminded me that nothing is too small for God. He wants to help us and strengthen us (Isaiah 41:10). He asks us to “cast our burdens” on him (Psalm 55:22), and he gives us “rest for our souls” (Matthew 11:28–30).
Surround yourself with people who will care for you.
Trauma doesn’t heal in isolation. One friend asked me how I was doing soon after my friend passed away. I abruptly nodded and answered, “I’m doing fine,” in my natural mode of not bringing attention to myself and to move on the conversation. She knew to speak up, “No, you’re not. And that’s ok.” She gave me the permission to authentically share my struggle with her family then and into the future. She happened to be in the midst of a year of pain, loss, and trauma herself, yet she was willing to show she wanted to care for me, too. People want to care for you, especially if you’re involved in a small group—do not take away their opportunity to be used by God. Do everything in your power to surround yourself with people who can help.